India is a step closer to getting its first ‘mixed site’ under UNESCO with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recommending Khangchendzonga National Park of Sikkim. A ‘mixed site’ contains elements of both natural and cultural significance.
‘We have got a positive recommendation from the IUCN and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos). This is the first ‘mixed site’ from India which has been considered for nomination,’ Director, Wildlife Institute of India, VB Mathur, told the media.
This would be the 24th ‘mixed site’ under UNESCO in the world once it gets the final nod at the 40th World Heritage Committee meeting to be held in July in Istanbul, Turkey.
Thomas Chandy, PCCF-cum-principal secretary forests, environment and wildlife management department in Sikkim, said, ‘The site is a mixed one and portrays the best cultural elements and sound environmental policies of the state government.’
The IUCN, in its technical evaluation report, says the national park meets the World Heritage criteria and exhibits one of the widest altitudinal ranges of any protected area worldwide, ‘The park is located within a mountain range of global biodiversity conservation significance and covers 25 per cent of Sikkim, acknowledged as one of India’s most significant biodiversity concentrations.’
The park was established in 1977 and later expanded in 1997 to include the major mountains, glaciers and additional lowland forests.
The report adds that the fringe area of the park also harbours an assemblage of cultural elements of local people who have maintained their traditional identities, cultures and religious practices. The protected-area status of the park preserves its cultural uniqueness and conserves its exceptional aesthetic value and biodiversity.
On the cultural criteria, Icomos says, ‘It is the heartland of a culture which has evolved over time and includes several Sikkimese ethnic groups and a multi-layered syncretic religious tradition that exists in a precious balance with nature in its traditional use of resources, its culture and its religion.’